Authority without Responsibility

As an engineering undergraduate student, one of the requisite courses at my institution was a course on management. Industrial Law & Management introduced students to the ethos of management, our very own undergraduate “MBA” course. That little glimpse left a lasting impression on some of us.

 

In Industrial Law & Management, we were taught Henri Fayol’s management principles. His 14 clear principles have been widely applied in the management of various-sized organisations. Tellingly, the first principle stands out as a base for the others. It simply says, “With authority comes responsibility”.

That principle intimates a manager/leader that in as much as the position being occupied offers him/her authority over subordinates/team members, some responsibilities are intrinsically tied-in with that authority. As a manager, you have the right to do this-and-that, but at the back of your mind, you must always be aware that you would be held responsible for whatever results from the enforcement of your authority. Having a sense of responsibility has helped astute managers to correctly use their authority to judiciously manage the resources available to them in order to achieve set goals.

However, in Nigeria, as part of a sad scarcity of top-notch leaders, management principles most times are not even peeped at in governance. A large percentage of Nigeria’s political leaders are practically semi-illiterates. Some others, who have academic degrees of different ranks, also do not have any inkling about good management principles. Only a few of our leaders really understand what it means to manage, and have the will to put that understanding into achieving visible results.

This lack of understanding explains the trend for grim-faced blunders by government officials. The authority given to them by the constitution and ancillary laws is abused without any thought for decency. Officials who have trashed all senses of responsibilities run this country. In fact, the only “responsibility” they subscribe to, is the one that grants them “legal rights” to milk the country dry. An example will suffice here.

The president, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, has overall control of the military. He can order troops to be deployed to any part of the country, and even outside the country, sometimes on his own authority, other times, with the endorsement of the legislators. In exercising this authority, the president must recognise that he is responsible for the aftermath, just as the most praise would be channelled his way after successful missions.

Soldiers signed up with their lives. At conscription, they offered their lives in service of the nation. They put their lives in the hands of their superiors and commanding officers. However, their obeisance comes with an expectation that the “keepers” of their lives are worthy custodians who would diligently preserve their interest. 

The president has the authority to order military men and women into combat. In exercising that authority, it is his responsibility to ensure that they are properly kitted. It is his responsibility to care about their wellbeing—financial, emotional and medical. It is his responsibility to care about their safety in the theatre of war. It is his responsibility to ensure that they have a fair fighting chance. In fact, it is his responsibility to move mountains to ensure that the battle odds are in their favour. It is his responsibility to ensure high morale. Above all, he is responsible for every lost equipment, every injury, every lost limb, and each life that is sacrificed.

What a big responsibility! The huge authority the president possesses comes with attached strings of responsibility. Many seek the position, but are not ready for the responsibilities.

The word out is that a massive military campaign is to be launched against the bloodthirsty fools called Boko Haram— a military campaign so large that it is one of the excuses for postponing the 2015 elections. Six weeks to do what six years could not do!

Now that Mr. President and his military commanders are ready to exercise their authority against Boko Haram, I ask, “Are they ready for the responsibilities?” Are soldiers now better equipped than they have been before now? Would there be adequate air and artillery support? Is there plausible actionable intelligence? Has progress been made against the moles in the military? Are our gallant men and women not being sent on suicide missions? Would the indignity of running to Cameroun or Chad be forced on them? Only the president and his commanders can answer these questions.

President Goodluck Jonathan should know that the buck stops at his table. The success or failure of the intended campaign is his responsibility. When the elections finally hold, whether he wins or loses his re-election bid, whether Boko Haram is wiped out or not, history would hold him responsible for every lost soldier, every new widow or widower, every orphaned child.

Like Henri Fayol said, “With authority comes responsibility”.

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